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Grenzen der Gemeinschaft

Helmuth Plessner

Top 10 Best Quotes

“The aura of what is veiled seduces the person to break its magic and disclose the secret. But if it is only distance and foreignness that is seductive, this has the effect of drawing the person in the direction of absolute intimacy and familiarity, a direction which destroys the aura. The stimulus of psychological distance lies in a repulsion that attracts and an attraction which ultimately repulses - a movement never in balance. We enjoy such a stimulus not only in art and the regions of contemplative silence, but above all, in life with things and persons. It forms the air of a genuine milieu without which we would atrophy. Magic that wishes to be and, yet, not to be decoded; promises that promise everything and promise nothing - whoever understands this comprehends the being of the soul in its ultimate questionability.”

“We do not sufficiently respect that anti-mephistoclean force which, like the mephistoclean one, threatens the balance of life: a force that constantly wishes what is good and constantly produces what is evil.”

“The most important symptom of tact derives from this respect for the individuality of oneself and others: sensitivity. It is the only way possible to construct pleasant sociable interactions, as it never permits too much closeness nor too much distance. Everything explicit, every eruptive honesty, is avoided. Untruth which succors is always better than truth which damages; however, a bindingness which does not bind is the best. In this sphere there should be neither good nor evil, neither truth nor error, but only the value of beneficence - the hygiene of the greatest possible nurturance. Only the barbaric person lets himself be deceived by flattery and lets himself be surrounded by the fog of politeness, only to curse the world so spoiled. Let us imagine just for a second what interaction between persons who barely know each other and yet who say what they think or even assume about the other is like: After a quick collision, the coldness of outer space would descend upon them.”

“The more ideology becomes pacifistic, the more militaristic become the ideologists.”

“We want ourselves to be seen and to have been seen as we are; and we want just as much to veil ourselves and remain unknown, for behind every determination of our being lies dormant the unspoken possibility of being different.”

“To be sure, who is strong and who is weak? One-sided racial theories just as little as one-sided class theories here fail to make any advance. The opposition is not correctly expressed with contrasts such as between blond-black, Aryan-Semite, German-Roman, German-slave; nor is it expressed with the contrast between producer-worker, bourgeoisie-proletarian. Strong is whoever controls society [Gesellschaft] because he affirms it. Weak is whoever flees society [Gesellschaft] for the sake of the community because he denies society. ... Strong is whoever affirms the entire essential complex of society [Gesellschaft] for the sake of the dignity of the individual and the social whole; weak is whoever sacrifices dignity for brotherhood in the community.”

“Nature is at all times unequivocal; its secrets, so difficult to decode, lay open to the eye. It is otherwise with the fullness of being of the soul. It never exhausts itself as having come into existence; rather, it passes through this level of determination and exhaustion only to return again to a process of becoming, to a living actuality. From an unfathomable primordial source, interior being [innern], the soul's difficult-to-comprehend forms climb into the light of consciousness where they dissolve again like all genuine creations of the night. The soul is at all times ambiguous; before every attempt to unravel its secrets, it retreats back to the depths.”

“In nature all things are close to or distant from each other. The psychological world knows first the intermediate region of distance seducing to nearness, nearness pressing towards distance, of an irreconcilable closeness-distance.”

“Humanity demands from their leaders the courage to sin. To take account of reality means to take account of the devil. And to take account of the devil without degenerating and slipping into him is a difficult skill; it is the true problem of an ethic of balance, of the true center, not the ethic of simply negating what resists the demands of honesty, conviction, and love.”

“And we also recognize this dance-like spirit, this ethos of grace: societal conduct, the control not only of written and established conventions, the virtuous mastery of forms of play where persons come close to each other without meeting and where they establish distance without damaging each other through indifference; amiability and not insistence is the atmosphere of this ethos of grace - its ethical law is the game and its observation, not seriousness. Forced distance between persons becomes ennobled into reserve. The offensive indifference, coldness, and rudeness of living past each other is made ineffective through the forms of politeness, respectfulness, and attentiveness. Reserve counteracts a too great intimacy.”

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Book Keywords:

society, moderation, openness, communism, being, morality, magic, honesty, devil, weakness, courage, democracy, anti-communism, avoidance, becoming, sensitivity, leadership, ethics, intimacy, distance, longing, secrets, extremism, fallibility, being-known, aura, mystery, evil, pacifism, strength, seduction, flattery, faust, kindness, mephistopheles, fanaticism, games, politics, anti-fascism, potentiality, play, balance, gentleness, soul, attraction, temptation, socialism, humanism, tact, politeness, sin, indeterminacy, individualism

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